Media Review Conduct After LeakSTEP TWO: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
CIA Inquiry Leads to Questions About What Should Be Published
When syndicated columnist Robert Novak reported on July 14 that "two senior administration officials" had told him that the wife of a prominent White House critic did undercover work for the CIA, it barely caused a ripple.
Former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV talked about the leak in interviews and at the National Press Club soon after, telling Newsday the message was "that if you talk, we'll take your family and drag them through the mud." Nation writer David Corn called the leak a "thuggish act," and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it a "criminal act." After Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for an investigation, the New York Times, Washington Post and Buffalo News ran inside-the-paper stories.
But it was not until this weekend's reports that the CIA has asked the Justice Department to examine the matter that the story hit the front page of The Washington Post and the Sunday talk shows, sparking questions not just about White House motives but about media conduct.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said Novak was in "dangerous territory. . . . Journalists should apply a civil disobedience test: Does the public good outweigh the wrong that you're doing? In a case where you are risking someone's life, potentially, or putting someone in danger, you have to decide what is the public good you are accomplishing. Because you have the freedom to publish doesn't mean it's necessarily the right thing to do."
Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, one of the papers that published the July 14 column, said that "in retrospect, I wish I had asked more questions. If I had, given that his column appears in a lot of places, I'm not sure I would have done anything differently. But I wish we had thought about it harder. Alarm bells didn't go off. . . . We have a policy of trying not to publish anything that would endanger anybody."
Your journalistic integrity is calling. Answer.